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Editorial: The return of No Theater

  •  Roy Faudree of Florence, rehearsing a play called Caveman by Richard Maxwell.

    Roy Faudree of Florence, rehearsing a play called Caveman by Richard Maxwell. Purchase photo reprints »

  • left Tom Mahnken, of South Hadley, Sheena see of Florence and Roy Faudree of Florence, rehearsing a play called Caveman by Richard Maxwell.

    left Tom Mahnken, of South Hadley, Sheena see of Florence and Roy Faudree of Florence, rehearsing a play called Caveman by Richard Maxwell. Purchase photo reprints »

  •  Roy Faudree of Florence, rehearsing a play called Caveman by Richard Maxwell.
  • left Tom Mahnken, of South Hadley, Sheena see of Florence and Roy Faudree of Florence, rehearsing a play called Caveman by Richard Maxwell.

Roy Faudree and Sheena See, founders of the Northampton-based No Theater, staged their first play in Thornes Marketplace in 1974, a production of “Elephant Man,” using a script conceived and written by Faudree. This month, the longtime experimental theater troupe returned to the city to perform.

With the Northampton Center for the Arts due to close its doors at the end of March after 30 years on Old South Street, it is encouraging to see another arts group taking the stage downtown. No Theater will present Richard Maxwell’s “Caveman” through Feb. 23 at Available Potential Enterprises (A.P.E.) Gallery on Main Street.

In the years between its first and most recent production — after performing No Theater productions here for more than two decades — the couple took the troupe and their creative talents on the road. Along the way the pair earned a reputation for thought-provoking and innovative theater; Faudree’s “Elephant Man,” a play which centers on the life of a severely deformed Englishman, predates a late Broadway production as well as a movie version starring John Hurt.

At the same time, Faudree and See have played a major role in designing and directing several musical productions by Young@Heart, Northampton’s internationally known elderly chorus. The pair has also performed with The Wooster Group, a renowned experimental theater ensemble based in New York City. Faudree also taught theater, speech and English at Holyoke Community College.

While their careers have taken them to New York, San Francisco, Europe, Singapore and elsewhere, the couple has always considered Northampton home.

As Faudree told a Gazette reporter 30 years ago, “I wouldn’t live anywhere else.”

The Valley has been lucky to have two people who share such a passion for theater, as well as a commitment to staging thought-provoking productions. As the troupe’s name suggests, No Theater has presented many of its productions in spaces that weren’t designed for theater. Initially, the company used the third floor of Thornes, becoming the resident company of A.P.E. after it took over that space in the mid-1970s. No Theater productions have also taken place in converted tunnels, lofts and storefronts. The troupe used a pine grove in Northampton’s Look Park to stage Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” with the audience watching from bleachers under the trees.

In a recent article about the company’s latest performance, Faudree remarked that in live performances, the audience and performers share time and space.

We’re pleased that, once again, that space is on Northampton’s Main Street.

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